An Extraordinary Champion of Social Justice: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Nelson Mandela Education

By Bill Henk – As an educator, the profound and insightful quote above has always been a favorite of mine.  Its source, Nelson Mandela, qualifies as one of the most influential figures in human history.  His passing on December 6, 2013, rightfully engendered a deep sadness worldwide among everyone who truly values social justice.

Mistakenly, I thought that I knew quite a bit about this remarkable man.  It turns out that I knew precious little. His story is much richer than that of a civil rights activist who endured 27 years in prison for his efforts to eliminate apartheid.  His sacrifice in that important respect represented a prodigious one to be sure, but this one defining segment of his life, popularized by the media, doesn’t begin to capture the fullness of his experience on our earth.

I strongly encourage you to read one of the accounts provided below (by clicking on a photo) to gain a more complete understanding of Mr. Mandela’s fascinating history.  If you are like me, you will find yourself saying, “I had no idea” over and over and over again.

Around the world, citizens are challenged to devote 67 minutes of their time each year on Nelson Mandela International Day to making the world a better place.  The request is made in deference to the 67 years of public life that President Mandela had spent devoted to civil rights.  As a final tribute to someone who changed our world for the better, read more about him.  You will be glad that you did.

Mandela young manMandela imprisonedmandela as president


A Photo Gallery and Quotes

In addition you can click here to view a photo gallery for Mr. Mandela and savor the quotes of world leaders and celebrities about Mr. Mandela directly below.

President Obama:

“He achieved more than could be expected of any man and today he’s gone home. We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will ever share time with on this earth. He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.”

Bill Clinton:

“Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings. History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation.”

Desmond Tutu:

“The sun will rise tomorrow. It will not be as bright as yesterday. But life will carry on…God is asking South Africans, please become what you are, show the world we are members of one family. We belong together.”

South African President Jacob Zuma:

“[The nation] has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

The Dalai Lama

“The best tribute we can pay to him is to do whatever we can to contribute to honoring the oneness of humanity and working for peace and reconciliation as he did.”

Muhammad Ali:

“What I will remember most about Mr. Mandela is that he was a man whose heart, soul, and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars, or the burden of hate and revenge. He taught us forgiveness on a grand scale.”


“One of the great honors of my life was to be invited to Nelson Mandela’s home, spend private time, and get to know him. He was everything you’ve ever heard and more—humble and unscathed by bitterness. And he always loved to tell a good joke. Being in his presence was like sitting with grace and majesty at the same time. He will always be my hero. His life was a gift to us all.”

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair:

“Mandela made racism everywhere not just immoral but stupid; something not only to be disagreed with, but to be despised. In its place he put the inalienable right of all humankind to be free and to be equal.”

Paul Simon:

“Mandela was one of the great leaders and teachers of the twentieth century. He conceived a model for mortal enemies to overcome their hatred and find a way through compassion to rebuild a nation based on truth, justice, and the power of forgiveness. His passing should reignite a worldwide effort for peace.”

U2 Frontman Bono:

“It was he who rebooted the idea of Africa from a continent in chaos to a much more romantic view, one in keeping with the majesty of the landscape and the nobility of even its poorer inhabitants. He was also a hardheaded realist, as his economic policy demonstrated. To him, principles and pragmatism were not foes; they went hand in hand. He was an idealist without naiveté, a compromiser without being compromised.”

1 Response to “An Extraordinary Champion of Social Justice: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)”

  1. 1 Nelson Mandela | Unitedeecc Trackback on February 24, 2015 at 1:41 am

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